A new law that would have banned tourists from smoking cannabis in Amsterdam’s notorious coffee shops has been scrapped.
The mayor of Amsterdam has rejected the legislation, which the incoming Dutch government has ruled will be up to local authorities to adopt it – or not.
Eberhard van der Laan said enforcing the law in the city would only force pot smokers onto the streets.
He told the De Volkskrant newspaper that the city’s tourists will not accept restrictions on the availability of marijuana.
“They will swarm all over the city looking for drugs. This would lead to more robberies, quarrels about fake drugs and no control of the quality of drugs on the market,” he said. “Everything we have worked toward would be lost to misery.”
Under the new rules, due to be fully introduced by January, the government will issue “weed passes” to those who want to smoke marijuana and hash.
This would mean only Netherlands residents could buy cannabis openly. Foreigners, who flood to Amsterdam each year to buy and smoke drugs, would be banned from such consumption.
Some 1.5 million visitors are estimated to go to the Dutch capital, which relies heavily on tourism, every year to take advantage of its libera approach to drugs.
The change in law has caused lengthy arguments between politicians, some of whom believe it will curb drug use in the country, and coffee shop owners, who fear it could seriously damage their business.
It was brought in by the previous conservative-led government but MPs in the new administration have decided to let individual cities make up their own minds.
There are currently around 750 coffee shops in the country, with around 220 of in Amsterdam, mostly in the city’s famous red light district where prostitution is also legal.
While marijuana trafficking is illegal in the Netherlands, people cannot be prosecuted for possession of small amounts and the drug is sold openly in designated cafes.